The UFC has partnered with Match TV in Russia to air UFC programs in the country. At multiple points the deal looked like it would end without an agreement between the UFC and Match TV. The previous UFC owners had an agreement nearly finalized for $500,000 to be paid annually for the program licensing. However, once WME-IMG became the owners the annual fee increased substantially. When WME-IMG looked to Russia to increase profits they sold the TV rights to Telesport. Telesport became the mediator between Match TV and the UFC that led to the agreement.
CEO of Match TV Tina Kandelaki said:
“The negotiation process was difficult, and we are grateful to our partners for their mutual interest in staging UFC broadcasts in 2017. We are seeing increased attention for this tournament, not only in the media, but also among viewers… We are confident that all broadcasts will bring great pleasure and enhance sports viewership. We believe that the start of the season with the fight of Khabib Nurmagomedov will lead to even greater increase in the audience to the sport.”
Russia is a promising source for two things that the UFC needs: more talent and more money. The UFC owners have profit benchmarks that they need to make for investors and to receive bonuses. With the new Match TV deal it is likely that the UFC is now bringing in at least a couple hundred million dollars a year. Also, Russia is putting out a lot of great fighters. Eastern Europe has been producing championship-level boxers and that has begun to carry over to the octagon. Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the hottest fighters in the UFC and the region could provide more.